Shoe Giveaway as Community Blessing
Saturday was our second annual shoe giveaway. We got the idea of giving away shoes from the book, Barefoot Church, by Brandon Hatmaker. (See my book review). At a church gathering Brandon described how he and his wife were challenged to give their new shoes to barefoot homeless people. On their way out of the gathering Brandon turned around and saw the mass of other people who had also given away their shoes. He was struck that a “barefoot church” was serving its city.
We decided that we were going to be a church that did not expect people to come to us on Sundays; we were going to be a church that goes to and serves the people in our city every day.
We partnered with local businesses that displayed coin cans and donated goods and services for a silent auction. Then we sold tickets to an old-fashioned hamburger and hotdog feed at a local park. A DJ played music during the dinner and reported regularly on the silent auction.
The local police and fire department came to the giveaway to connect with the kids. We gave shoes to nearly 200 children!
We learned several things through our experiences with the shoe drive and giveaway.
- Service is outreach. We touched people’s lives by giving them shoes, but we also witnessed the benefit of inviting unchurched people to serve alongside of us. By taking action, they learned more about the love of Jesus than they ever would by hearing a sermon. We had many spiritual conversations with our volunteers, and some of them wanted to continue the discussions after the giveaway.
- Service has no strings attached. This has become our motto for serving. We will never invite someone to a barbeque under the guise of friendship and then have a Bible study. This “bait and switch” approach turns people off and does not reflect the example of Jesus. We intentionally did not use the giveaway as an advertisement for our church. Instead, we wanted to build authentic friendships with people and show them that we care about them as individuals.
- Service builds community. Many community connections were made during our fund-raising and giveaway. Local businesses readily jumped at the opportunity to help raise funds to put shoes on children. We even came up with the saying, “local people helping local kids” to emphasize that we were not raising money to send somewhere else. We would take care of our own—and people loved that.